LOS ANGELES - Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy were crowned the winners of the coveted Mirror Ball trophy in the finale of "Dancing with the Stars" Season 23 on Tuesday.
Along with Laurie and Val, the finalists were race car driver James Hinchcliffe and his partner Sharna Burgess, and former NFL wide receiver Calvin Johnson Jr. and his partner Lindsay Arnold.
The shining end of a long three month challenge came down to three high-caliber performances and viewer votes.
The two-hour show was packed with exciting acts, including many routines featuring the professional dancers, favorite past numbers from the finalists, a return of all the eliminated couples, a sneak preview of the upcoming "Dancing with the Stars" tour, plus musical performances from Andy Grammer, Kenneth Babyface Edmonds, and Vanilla Ice.
The last round of the competition featured the 24-hour fusion challenge. The final three couples were assigned two different dance styles to fuse together into one cohesive dance routine.
Here's how the results turned out (in alphabetical order):
- Laurie Hernandez: 40 out of 40
Laurie and Val fused together a foxtrot with an Argentine tango and it not only got everyone in the ballroom off their feet, it blew the judges away. During their final rehearsal, Laurie told Val she didn't want to say goodbye. He coyly suggested they leave it at "I'll see you later." We soon learn she is joining Val and the other pros on the upcoming "Dancing with the Stars" tour. As for the judges, head judge Len Goodman called her "Little Miss Dynamite" and thought it was a fabulous dance to close a fabulous season. Bruno Tonioli told Laurie she'd grown into an overall great performer. Carrie Ann Inaba said after a season of great dances, this was her best routine ever.
- James Hinchcliffe: 40 out of 40
It was the foxtrot and Viennese waltz for James and Sharna. He admitted to being pretty surprised that he made it to the finale, which he said was beyond his wildest expectations. Sharna countered by telling James this was the best season of her career. Len told James he's a terrific dancer and the duo has great chemistry, but then gave a truly huge compliment: he told James he wished he could dance like he did. Julianne quickly responded that she wished she could dance with James and told him he deserved to be in the finale. Bruno called him a class act and Carrie Ann thought the couple transported viewers to another fairy tale world.
- Calvin Johnson Jr.: 40 out of 40
The jive and the quickstep captured Calvin's massive amount of energy. He started the season worrying about wearing rhinestones, but grew to know he could immerse himself in any character. Calvin reflected that at this exact time last year he was playing in the NFL, but said he wouldn't trade the experience for the world. Carrie Ann praised Calvin's "X-factor" and thinks he makes the world a better place. Julianne thought the dance was perfect, from content to kicks to flicks and said no amount of rhinestones could shine as bright as he does. Len said watching Calvin dance is a joyful experience.
The crowd cheered with excitement as Laurie and Val were announced the Season 23 winners of "Dancing with the Stars."
James and Sharna took second place while Calvin and Lindsay finished in third place.